CHAMONIX, France — Henrik Kristoffersen showed glimpses of his best slalom skills Sunday, winning the last World Cup men's slalom race before the world alpine ski championships.
The Norwegian had an attacking, fluent opening run, and defied worsening course conditions in the final to land his second victory of the season.
Most of the top-ranked racers from the opening leg struggled on the rapidly deteriorating La Verte des Houches course, with the surface getting softer and softer as the sun came out in the afternoon after days of rain.
Kristoffersen was the last racer on course but managed to hold on to his first-run lead as he battled his way through the ruts.
The Norwegian beat Swiss skiers Ramon Zenhäusern by 0.28 seconds and Sandro Simonet by 0.66.
Calgary's Erik Read, Asher Jordan of North Vancouver, B.C., and Toronto's Justin Alkier didn't qualify for the day's second run.
Simonet improved from 30th position after the opening run. He was among the racers who benefitted from an early start in the final.
Kristoffersen's win came a day after he skied out a few seconds into his opening run of a slalom on the same course.
“I could have skied like this yesterday, too, if not for the straddle at the second gate. I feel really good on this kind of snow,” he said.
Kristoffersen won the slalom season title for a second time last year but a victory in Italy in December had been his only previous podium finish in eight races in the current campaign.
"Life is not nice at all if you're skiing badly. This year has been really difficult for sure until now. We are struggling with the setup on the icy snow,” the Norwegian said.
“Since the start of January up until now it has been super cold. The density of the ice has been really hard so then I don’t have the right setup.”
Sunday’s result marked Kristoffersen’s 19th career slalom win, and 23rd overall.
The win puts him in shared second place with Kjetil Jansrud on Norway’s all-time winners list.
Only Aksel Lund Svindal, who retired two years ago, has more victories with 36.
Overall World Cup leader Alexis Pinturault, who was second after the opening run, finished in a tie for eighth with Italy's Manfred Mölgg.
Austria's Marco Schwarz dropped from third to fifth and failed to wrap up the World Cup slalom title.
The Austrian still holds a 146-point lead over Zenhäusern with two slaloms remaining after the Feb. 8-21 world championships.
Saturday's winner Clément Noël of France didn’t qualify for the second run on home snow.
He came off the race line in the opening run when his skis crossed and nearly failed to make the next gate.
The men's World Cup moves to Germany for speed races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Friday and Saturday, which will be the last men's races before the world championship.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2021.
The Canadian Press